Category Archives: Turkey

Interview with H.E. Murat Ahmet Yörük- Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Mumbai

 

H.E. Murat Ahmet Yörük has completed two years in Mumbai as the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey and he shares his experiences of the increase in trade, tourism and cultural exchanges between Turkey and India.

GLOBAL TIES
You began your role as the Consul General of Turkey in Mumbai in February 2009. How do you see the role of your office in areas of tourism, trade promotion and cultural exchanges during this period?

I was appointed to Mumbai to establish a new Consulate General. This move was the natural result of the rapidly developing relations between India and Turkey. There is a strong political will between the Turkish and Indian Governments to further our ties and cooperation in every possible field. In the last three years, we have witnessed mutual high-level visits between our countries. H.E. Ali Babacan, then Turkish Foreign Minister, and H.E.  Kürşat Tüzmen, then Minister of Foreign Trade, have visited India in 2008. Towards the end of 2008, H.E Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, visited India as well. More recently, in February 2010, H.E. Abdullah Gül, the President of the Republic of Turkey, paid an official visit to India. These visits were usually accompanied with large delegations of Turkish businessmen to encourage economic and commercial ties.

In 2011, this positive momentum will continue through official and business contacts.  There are also additional bi-lateral cooperation agreements and exchange programs across different fields between Turkey and India being discussed as well. Parallel to this positive momentum, our Government decided to open a Consulate General in Mumbai in 2008. Since then, the Turkish Government has also decided to open Consulate General offices across India including Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. When we finalize the establishment of these Consulates across India, then Turkey will be among the most officially represented countries in India.

The Turkish Government has also decided to change the visa regime towards India. Since May 2010, we have put into practice a new measure providing entry visas for Indian citizens upon arrival into Turkey with the condition of having a valid Schengen, U.S. or U.K. visa.

With regards to the role of my office, we started providing basic consular services in January 2010 and the office was officially inaugurated by the Turkish President in February 2010. Since then we have started providing full-fledged consular services. During that time, my efforts were basically focused on establishing the Consulate; and creating the interaction and networks between Turkish and Indian business communities. We also organized and participated in cultural and trade events. In fact, approximately 65000 Indians travelled to Turkey in 2010 and the Mumbai Consulate issued approximately 23000 of those visas. I believe that a lot was accomplished in one year. But of course, there are still new targets and goals left to reach and achieve.

Before being posted to Mumbai as Consul General, you were at the Turkish Embassy in Delhi for one and a half years. How has India changed during your time here and how is Mumbai different from Delhi?

It is a well known fact that India is one of the rising stars on the global stage. It is also known by the international community that India is one of the major contributors to the growth of the global economy and trade. As a career diplomat, I considered myself lucky to be posted in India. I have arrived India in August 2007, and in the past 4 years in India, I have been witnessing a tremendous transformation in India. I have observed the dynamism of the economy, and the drive and enthusiasm of the youth to achieve more. It has been amazing to see this transformation happen so rapidly across the country.

What were the major highlights of interesting events organized both professionally and personally in 2010?

Within the first year of setting up the Consulate General, we tried to cover a long distance. We were able to organize a few cultural events to promote Turkey and our official presence in Mumbai. Among these, the most important to me was the “Turkish Movie Days Festival”.  Mumbai is not only a financial and economic hub of India, but also the heart of India’s film industry. Of the main cultural activities, I decided to start with the Turkish Film Festival. I believe that cinema is one of the best ways to communicate with other cultures. We chose as the opening movie a film whose leading actor is also taking part in one of the forthcoming Bollywood movies. I wanted to highlight the connection between the Turkish and Indian movie industries. In fact, the producer of that opening movie is also the President of the Turkish Movie and TV Producers Association. We invited them for the opening of this festival so that the representatives of Turkish and Indian cinema could meet, and come together to explore business opportunities. This was certainly one of the most significant cultural activities that we organized last year.

The photography exhibition conducted with my wife in September 2010 was also a very special event for me, not just as a Consul General, but as a photographer as well. It was special because the exhibition was a compilation of our photographs of India. I think many people were expecting us to showcase photographs of Turkey. Since we had lived in India for about 4 years, we wanted to share our experiences and understanding of India with the community.

What are the interesting events lined up in 2011 in India and in Turkey to increase awareness between the two nations?

As a result of the high-level visits of political dignitaries between our countries, there will continue to be high-level exchanges between our countries in 2011. There will also be many events and road-shows taking place. For example, “The India Show” with the collaboration of the Engineering Export Promotion Council and the Indian Ministry of Industry and Commerce will take place in Istanbul in February 2011. Also, the Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) will hold their international conference which is called “India Calling” in Turkey in April 2011. Their local counterpart in Turkey which is the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) has also taken a decision to support this international conference in Istanbul. We are also planning to organize an exhibition of Turkish products in Mumbai before the end of 2011.

Of course as we attach significant importance for cooperation in the tourism sector, we also continue to organize tourism workshops in different cities throughout India.

We have also planned a few cultural activities such as bringing a troupe of Whirling Dervishes to attend a Sufi festival which is organized annually by the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA). I know that Sufi culture is very well understood and highly popular in India. In addition to that, I would also like to bring to Mumbai a lively and colorful group of folk dancers from the different regions of Turkey and arrange exhibitions of well known Turkish artists – and perhaps even have another photography exhibition with my wife.

How well known is India in Turkey and what is the perception of Indians and India in Turkey?

I can say that the perception of India and Indians in Turkey is very positive. For example, a generation of Turkish people born between 1940 and 1970 all know of the famous Bollywood classic Awaara with Raj Kapoor. Till now I can still hum the melody of the popular song of the movie.


Actually, the relationship between India and Turkey dates back many centuries. When you look at the daily lives of Indians and Turks, you will see many commonalities. Throughout our relationship, we have mutually affected each other’s traditions, costumes, cuisines, architecture and even languages.  In fact, this relationship is underlined very well by a common word which is shared between our languages: “dost”  meaning friend in both Hindi and Turkish.

TURKISH  = HINDI
(and the English translation)

dost = dost (friend)
çay = chai (tea)
dünya = dunya (world)
kitap = kitab (book)
kalem = kalam (pen)
canım = janaam (sweetheart)
adalet = adalat (court)
taze = taaza (fresh)
sebze = sabzi (vegetables)
nar = anar (pomegranate)
badem = badam (almonds)

Interestingly, spices are called “baharat” in Turkish, perhaps derived from “Bharat”, India being the only source of spices in the world then.

ABOUT TURKEY

The year 2010 was very important for Istanbul as it was a European Cultural Capital. What are some reasons why Istanbul is one of the most significant cities in the world for tourism, trade and events?

It has been said by Napoleon Bonaparte that; “If the world were a unified State, Istanbul would have been its capital”. Istanbul has been the capital of empires and the meeting point of cultures and civilizations. These are some of the phrases that describe Istanbul. Yet there are no words or stories about Istanbul which would be sufficient in describing the spirit or charm of Istanbul. I encourage everyone to experience the beauty of Istanbul for themselves.
Istanbul is also the largest and most developed city in Turkey with a population of approximately 13 million. In fact, when I first came to Mumbai I discovered some similarities between the two cities in terms of their vibrancy and dynamism. Of course, like Mumbai for India, Istanbul is also Turkey’s capital of finance and commerce.

Istanbul also has an optimum geo-strategic location being between Europe and Asia. Most of the international companies conducting operations in southeastern Europe, the Middle East, western Asia and central Asia have chosen Istanbul as their headquarters.

With its historical and cultural background, prime trade and commercial location, panoramic vistas, shopping opportunities in some of the largest malls in Europe, the high velocity of nightlife, the distinguished restaurants and hotel chains and the international events , Istanbul is a city like no other.

Recently Mumbai hosted another edition of the Mumbai Marathon. Are there any such interesting events that take place in Turkey and when?

The Istanbul Marathon – officially called Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon – is an international athletics event organized by the metropolitan municipality in Istanbul, Turkey, every year on a Sunday in October since 1979. The marathon starts on the Asian shore of Istanbul, first crossing the Bosphorus Bridge and then the Golden Horn Bridge and passing under the Valens Aqueduct on the way to the beach on the Marmara Sea. For professional athletes, the marathon finishes on the European side at the Hippodrome – one of the oldest racetracks in the world, situated in the historic district of Sultanahmet, which has an abundance of ancient monuments and sites.

BEYOND ISTANBUL

Although Istanbul is a fascinating city, there is much more to Turkey. Can you elaborate on this?

When you compare Turkey with India in terms of land size, Turkey is perhaps equal to the size of Maharashtra State. But, when you compare Turkey to European countries, Turkey is one of the largest in her respective region. Of course, there is much to be seen in the other parts of Turkey, which is geographically called Anatolia. Also, considering the fact that Turkey has been a cradle for more than 400 civilizations in over 5000 years, it is not a surprise that Turkey has been referred to as the largest open-air museum in the world. Accordingly, where ever you go in Turkey – not only in Istanbul – you will find this history and culture in abundance.

Of course, other parts of Turkey are also popular with tourists such as Antalya, Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Ephesus. There are still however places in Turkey which are not frequently visited, but well worth the visit. In the north along the Black Sea coast for example, you will see different charms such as the virgin forests and the high plateaus.

In fact in 2010, Turkey placed as the number one destination across the world in the highly reputable Condé Nast Traveller reader’s travel awards.

Of course, tourism is a very important sector for Turkey which generates almost 3% of the GDP.  According to the statistics, approximately 29 million people visited Turkey last year. Therefore, it is not a coincidence or a surprise that Turkey is one of the top ten holiday destinations across the world.

What do you think of the concept of http://www.namasteturkey.com, a dedicated website to encourage tourism amongst the Indian outbound traveller?

I think that as the website is dedicated to Turkey, so is the owner dedicated to Turkey. I was actually aware of the website when I came to Mumbai. I went through each and every item that was displayed on the website and I think any person who wanted information about travelling to Turkey would be more than satisfied. It is very easy to navigate and user-friendly. The information that has been conveyed to the user is very well compiled and presented. I found it very useful and highly attractive.

TRADE & INVESTMENT

In terms of trade and tourism, what has been the growth in these areas between the two States in 2009-10 and what is the estimated growth expected in 2010-11?

We have observed a significant increase in our trade volume and private sector ties for the last 6 years. The trade volume between Turkey and India has almost tripled between 2003 and 2009 from 795 million US dollars to 2.3 billion US dollars. As of November 2010, though the figures have not been officially announced, the trade volume reached 3.1 billion US dollars. Also, during the official visit of the Turkish Prime Minister to India in November 2008, a target of 6 billion US dollars by the end of 2011 was mutually set by the respective heads of our governments. As a Consul General, I am very glad to see that during 2010 about half the visas issued by my Consulate were for business purposes. It is a tangible representation that the commercial and business ties between our countries are strengthening rapidly.

Lastly, in order to give a greater thrust to our economic and trade relations, we are expecting the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Turkey and India. With the prospect of this agreement, Indian companies will be able to easily enter the Turkish market. If you consider the population of Turkey which is over 70 million and the benefits of preferential market access, Indian companies will also be able to obtain industrial inputs necessary for the export of some of their products to the European Union and other markets. We hope that the negotiations towards the Free Trade Agreement will be finalized soon and then we can expect a tremendous boost in our commercial activities.
In terms of tourism, we have a total of 14 weekly direct flights between India and Turkey. We do not however consider this to be enough to increase the business interactions between our countries.  Our civil aviation authorities are planning to add 7 more destinations from India to Turkey in addition to Delhi and Mumbai.

The new visa provisions for the Indian traveller are also meant to facilitate the needs of the Indian businessman. For example, if you are a businessman in Chennai and you need to attend a meeting in Istanbul in 2 days, you would have to send your passport to Mumbai which would take a minimum of 2 days to be processed and delivered. With the new provisions, you can immediately take the first flight to Istanbul and collect your visa at the airport. We are trying to eliminate the barriers for commercial and trade activities between our countries. We would also like to strengthen the presence of our Consulate General and we are expecting the opening of a trade office affiliated to the Consulate. This is supposed to take place before the end of 2011.

I am also so happy to observe that as of 2010, the number of annual visitors to Turkey from India has reached almost 65000. Considering that this number was approximately 5000 as little as 7 years ago, this is a significant achievement. Of course, we are targeting 100000 Indian visitors to Turkey in the near future.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

This is your first posting as a Consul General. What were the challenges and what is your general perception of India and Mumbai in particular?

Before coming to India, I was the Head of Department for Bilateral Political Affairs for South Asian countries at my Ministry. So I was quite familiar with India before my arrival, especially regarding the key facts and figures. I cannot say that when I came to India that I faced a lot of challenges because I was mentally ready to deal with the bilateral files.

When it comes to Mumbai, I feel it is the most vibrant city in India and it is not a secret that the heart of India is beating in Mumbai. In that sense, opening and establishing a Consulate General in Mumbai was a significant challenge in terms of finding a suitable location; and recruiting and training the local staff. As a whole, the process was very challenging. However, the most challenging part for me was when we moved into our official buildings and signed the leasing agreements, it was the beginning of the monsoon season. And of course, during the monsoons, the city takes on a new rhythm and things slow down considerably. I was trying to push and move things quickly, but the circumstances made expediting tasks difficult. I decided to take it easy and enjoy the rains.

When did you start taking interest in photography and what are the standout experiences of capturing moments in India?

Actually, my interest in photography began almost 15 years ago as my wife began taking interest in photography.  Since then, photography has always been a part of our daily life, whether it is discussing her work or exhibitions. On occasion, I have even accompanied her on photography shoots and observed her carefully.

My personal practice of photography has been for about 2 years since I have been in India. This is because India is a very photogenic country and is like an open buffet in terms of visual experiences. I could not resist the temptation of practicing photography in India. Now my wife and I are enjoying photography together. When we find time, mostly during the weekends, we go out together for shootings.

The most exciting and standout experience of practicing photography in India was after a 19-hour trip with the entire family from Mumbai to Jabalpur by train and Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh by road.  It was our first trip to a wildlife sanctuary in India. We visited Bandhavgarh National Park. We went there on the recommendation of our dear friend and famous wildlife photographer, Mr. Kakubhai Kothari.

We spent the morning looking for tigers and it was not until the evening when we were about to leave that we came face to face with the most well known tiger of the park called B2. He is very famous and popular among wildlife photographers. He was going to a small river bank by himself. It was our pure luck. We started taking photographs, but that moment will always be remembered. It was my first time to see a tiger in its natural habitat. And our luck continued during that trip as we saw 8 tigers including mothers with their cubs. That was truly anunforgettable photography moment.

Which is your favourite destination in Turkey and in India?

As a photographer and a person who likes all outdoor activities, I cannot confine myself to one or two destinations either in Turkey or in India. One of my favourites however is the Black Sea region in northern Turkey. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Black Sea region because it has a geography like no other. Very roughly, I can compare it to the Swiss Alps. It is filled with mountains running parallel to the Black Sea coast and virgin forests. The local people are very warm and friendly. Even in the remotest of areas in the region, people will still open their doors and offer to share their food with you. It is an amazing place and whenever I go there, I find myself at peace with a spiritual satisfaction.

In India, there are still many places that I would like to visit. India is more like a continent than a country. Before I leave this beautiful country, I would really like to visit the northern part of India such as Ladakh. As a photographer, I would also like to see the northeastern tribal areas because these regions are not usually visited by the average traveller. I am also very eager to visit Lakshadweep or Andaman islands.  I would really like to visit these places if my time in India permits.

What has been your children’s experience of travelling around India and how have they adapted to staying in India?

Like all children of diplomats the country they live in becomes their second home.  Our children enjoy their stay in India very much. They go to a local school with an IB curriculum so they have a more local experience. Their knowledge of Hindi is much better than ours, so during our travels we sometimes ask for their assistance as translators.

PARTING MESSAGE

What is your message to the readers and why should they visit Turkey in 2011?

For the readers who are in the business and commercial sectors, I would like to convey that as India is a rising star, so has Turkey become a centre of attraction for the global economy and trade in its region. When you look at the statistics and figures, you will see that Turkey has the 16th largest economy in the world and for the last 5 years, Turkey has had an average growth rate of 7% with a GDP of approximately 750 billion US dollars. Like India, Turkey also has a young and well educated population with a motivated and qualified labour force. Turkey is one of the best places for making investments or conducting business. For Indian entrepreneurs, Turkey also provides a good opportunity for selling and promoting their products to the European Union market. Since 1995, Turkey has been enjoying the Customs Union with the European Union which means if an Indian entrepreneur manufactures their product in Turkey, they will be able to sell their product to the European Union without any tariff barriers or customs duties. Also the geostrategic location of Turkey allows you to reach over 50 countries, or a quarter of the world’s population, within a 4-hour flight time. Ten years ago, the number of foreign companies which were functioning in Turkey was around 5000. In 2010, this number has approximately reached 25000. These companies are managing their operations through Turkey. Among these, approximately 80 Indian companies have established their business in Turkey. I would like to invite your readers to look to Turkey for developing their business.

For the travellers, I would like to remind them that we have 4 seasons in Turkey and they should not confine themselves to a single season. Turkey provides opportunities for all types of travellers and their interests whether from cross-country skiing to relaxing on the beach. Turkey also hosts many events for the corporate traveller.

I would also like to bring to the kind attention of your readers that there is a misunderstanding that vegetarian travellers will not be able to find suitable food in Turkey. I would like to underline the fact that Turkish cuisine is based on Mediterranean cuisine so there are many exciting vegetarian and healthy options available.

Lastly, the Turkish people are renowned for their warmth and hospitality and I assure you that you will feel at home no matter where you are in Turkey.

 

Dost by by Ahmet Yoruk

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Interview with Şeniz Yörük – Photographer

Şeniz Yörük has participated in various photography exhibits and international festivals. Her photographs are in private collections worldwide. She shares with us how her interest in photography developed, how photography can connect travellers to a destination and her favourite holiday spots.

What have been your impressions of India? What  are the similarities between Turkey and India?

I feel privileged to live in India and try to get the most of this opportunity, be it getting to know the rich cultural heritage and as a photographer I enjoy savouring what I call the “visual energy” that India has to offer.  India and Turkey have a lot of similarities.

When I first came to India in 2007, I had the opportunity to contribute as a photographer to a great book project entitled “Indo-Turkish Architecture”. This book academically illustrates the similarities between the two architectural styles comparing monuments from Central Asia, Turkey and India.

It would be interesting to know that a scientific study showed that there are almost 9000 words in common between Turkish and the languages spoken in India. Even only this fact shows how close our cultures are to each other.

Dancer by Seniz Yoruk

How were you first introduced to photography and the creative arts?

My father was an enthusiastic hobbyist photographer. My mother is a painter. Living in a house full of art gave me an artistic perspective from the beginning.
I welcome every photographic opportunity from recording a moment in my life to the most subliminal landscape. I define my photography as “travel photography”  in a broader sense because life is a journey to try and capture the moments that I encounter during my own journey.

How has being married to a diplomat influenced your photographic and cultural outlook of the world?

It has given me the opportunity to get to know different continents, geographies, climates, cultures from up close.

Wherever we live on our postings, we are neither tourists nor permanent residents. I think this adds a unique perspective to my photography.

Frozen Cildir Lake

Which locations of Turkey do  you recommend to the aspiring travel photographer?

Just like India, Turkey is a photographer’s delight with the ever photogenic Istanbul, turquiose blue waters of the Mediterranean, patchwork of prairie landscapes in the Central Anatolian countryside, unique architecture of the old city of Mardin, famous sunrise near the ruins of Nemrut, wonderful mountain landscapes of the Black Sea highlands, wind eroded rock formations of Cappadocia and the list goes on.

How can tourism boards and destinations use photography as a tool to establish their presence in India?

I think photography really has the power to transport you to places. In tourism brochures and posters and other printed material, I personally prefer photographs with a natural feel rather than digital collages.

With the advent of digital cameras, photography has become even more accessible than before to everybody. Organizing photo contests is a popular way of promoting countries and locations through photography.

In September 2010, you held a photography exhibition showcasing India. Tell us about this and the various other exhibits and international festivals which you have participated in.Our exhibition entitled “India in Motion” was special to us because it was our first in India and our first photo exhibition together with my husband. After 3 years, we wanted to share our visual experience of India in India. It was very well attended and received and also enjoyed great media coverage. We also took the same exhibition to the “Pune Unplugged” festival in October 2010.

Other exhibitions that I have participated in are:
· March 2005, Seasons of Canada, National Press Club, Ottawa, Canada
· December 2006, DIMED Exhibition Transparan Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey
· June 2007 Turco-Greek Friendship Festival Photo Exhibition, Antalya-  Turkey, Rhodes-Greece
· Mart 2009, Colours of the World, Bakrac Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
· February 2010, Turkish Festival at Hyatt Regency, Mumbai, India
· August 2010, Doruk Art Gallery, Summer Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey

Which attractions of Turkey would you recommend for a romantic holiday?

I would recommend having a romantic dinner in the restaurant in Leander’s Tower (aka Maiden’s Tower, Kiz Kulesi in Turkish) which is a 2500 year old tower on an islet at the entrance of the Bosphorus from the Marmara Sea.

You will be literally between Asia and Europe enjoying a breathtaking view of  both continents. If you go there during early afternoon the light and the view gets better and better from a beautiful sunset to the illuminiated skyline of Istanbul’s historical peninsula. Historically, the tower was believed to be built around 408 BC, and rebuilt and restored many times since then. It had been used as a lighthouse and a watchtower, and now is being used for touristic purposes where you can take a boat to the tower and have your breakfast or dinner.Another romantic option is spending time in front of the fireplace in one of the restored old Turkish homes in the town of Safranbolu.  The whole town of Safranbolu makes you feel you have entered a time machine and transports you to a bygone era where life was much simpler and slower than it is today.

Which are the special interest tours that you would recommend to Indian visitors to experience the true flavours of Turkey?

I would recommend Blue voyage, cultural tours, adventure tourism, religious tours, organic farm stays to wine tastings and art festivals. Something I would personally love to do is horseback riding in Cappadocia.

I would also recommend Sebi Aruz, the Urs of Rumi, Konya in December of which the highlight is the Whirling  Dervishes ceremony.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in Turkey?

In Turkey, we are blessed with one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. So for every Turkish family spending a beach holiday on the Aegean and Mediterrean coasts to recharge the batteries is a must.

These days, besides the traditional seaside holiday, more and more people are also opting for alternative holidays. Our favourite as a couple is the Black Sea region. The Black Sea region is the northern part of  Turkey with a mountainous landscape and the most dense forest areas thanks to its abundant rainfall throughout the year. As a gift of its unique geography, it has a distinctive culture of its own. When we spend a week in Naldehra, Shimla we found it to be a very similar landscape to the highland villages of the Black Sea region in Turkey.
In the Black Sea region rather than spending time in the city, we like to head to the mountains right away. We like to spend at least a week of trekking from one highland village to the other. We love chatting with the locals over the locally grown black tea and accepting their offers of local snacks made of corn flour, home-made butter and cheese. We enjoy the breathtaking landscape, walking literally on top of the clouds, the local hospitality and food and even an impromptu night of local “horon” dance and music whenever the occasion arises.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in India?

To the traveller at heart, India offers so many possibilities. It is almost frustrating to know you will never have enough time to do  justice.
My personal favourite is Rajasthan. Every city, every village has its own unique characteristics – the beauty of the rugged landscape, colourful men and grace and beauty of the local women, Rajasthani dances and music.

What is your message to readers and how can photography be used as a medium to bring out their creativity?

I believe that everybody is a photographer. From the moment we are born we take mental images of our surroundings. When one decides to be a photographer the only thing that is left to do is to learn how the camera sees things differently than our eye. Being a photographer is a mental state more than anything.

 

Photographs courtesy of Şeniz Yörük (www.senizyoruk.com)

Interview with Özgür Aytürk

Özgür Aytürk has been the Culture and Tourism Counsellor of the Turkish Embassy in India for one month now. He shares with us how he plans to promote Turkey as a holiday destination for the Indian traveller and a few unexplored locations for the intrepid traveller.

How long have you been in India and what are your plans in terms of increasing tourism to Turkey from India?

I have been in India for a month now.  We are in the midst of finalizing our campaigns and promotions for this year, which would include a pan-India media campaign, consumer promotions and joint promotions with leading tour operators.

What were your previous assignments and how important is the Indian tourism market for Turkey?

My previous assignment was with Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. India is a special and growing market.  From 20000 Indian visitors in the year 2007 to 60000 Indian visitors in year 2010, Indian arrivals to Turkey have been growing at a rate of 12%.

What are the choices for a repeat traveler who has already visited Istanbul, the Aegean coast and Cappadocia?

Travellers can also have amazing trips to the Black Sea region, Southeastern Anatolia and Eastern Anatolia. There are in fact numerous destinations I can recommend, but let me give one or two samples for the readers.

In Southeastern Anatolia, Mount Nemrut is one of the best options for travellers where you can see the huge statues of lions, eagles and the old gods of Greeks and Persians, which were built by the king of the Commagene Kingdom, Antiochus I in 62 BC. Mount Nemrut, which is on the list of UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites in Turkey, is also known as the best place in the world where people can get the most beautiful view of sunrise and sunset. There are 8 more cultural and natural heritage sites like Mount Nemrut in different regions of Turkey and each one is worth spending at least a couple of days.

My second recommendation would be the city Van in Eastern Anatolia. Our Ministry is now promoting Van intensively by arranging some special events and festivals. You can trace the signs of the civilizations back to 4000 BC in Van, and it was also the capital of the Urartians. People can visit Van Castle which was built by the Urartians in the 9th Century BC near Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey.

Lake Van

What according to you is the ideal number of days to spend in Turkey for diverse holiday experiences?

An ideal vacation in Turkey can be enjoyed in a trip of 7 to 10 days in which one can see historical sites of Istanbul, enjoy sun and sand at Antalya, visit the natural wonders of Cappadocia and experience the nightlife of Bodrum or Izmir.

What are your views on Namaste Turkey (www.namasteturkey.com), a dedicated website for the Indian outbound traveller?

It is very suggestive and I must say that I was very surprised by seeing an amazing promotion of Turkey in India! We really appreciate the effort and we look forward to collaborating on many such products in the near future.

What is your message to the readers?

India is a very special country with which Turkey has very warm and cordial relations based on historical and cultural links. It is also one of the important emerging markets for Turkey. In my endeavour to make Turkey a popular destination with Indian travellers, I am looking forward to my time in India and building lasting relationships.

Interview with N. Sevgi Boz, Culture and Tourism Counsellor of Turkey

N. SEVGI BOZ State Culture and Tourism Counsellor of Turkey shares with us her views on Turkey promotion in India.

How long have you been the Culture and Tourism Counsellor in India and how has tourism to Turkey grown during this period?

I have been in India since the beginning of 2008. We started a new office and I had started first as the Counsellor of Culture and Tourism. India is a big market and one of the largest emerging markets for Turkey recently. India is a very special country and Turkey has a very warm and friendly relationship with India based on our diverse cultural connections. The Turkish Government realizes the importance of having a base in India and decided to open a new Culture and Tourism Office. Our office is part of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and one of the 40 offices across the globe and a part of Turkish Embassy in Delhi.

We are primarily here because of the importance of the growing Indian market and we thought that we needed to create awareness in the minds of Indian people about Turkey as a destination. We see that many Indians do not know much about Turkey beyond Istanbul which is quite a famous destination. Most Indians do not have enough information about what Turkey has to offer beyond Istanbul. We want to promote Turkey as a holiday destination. We have a holiday destination campaign which we are marketing extensively in India. We are participating in expos, travel and trade fairs and trying to reach the travel agents and the end consumers as well.  We are also organizing Familiarization trips as well as training workshops.

Where in India do you actively promote Turkey?

Initially, we conducted a workshop covering five important cities of India: Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. There were almost 16 travel companies that came from Turkey to participate in this workshop followed by another 14 companies and we had 10 travel companies participating in the TTF/OTM this year.

We want people to catch up with the most important holiday period during April and May. It is the Tulip season as well. For the last two years we are constantly encouraging Indian writers and media persons to write about Turkey. We are inviting them to Turkey so they can have a personal and firsthand experience. We have allocated funds to arrange trips of Indian travel writers. As a Turkish national, I know Turkey well but if people hear firsthand experiences from an Indian traveller then the whole perspective changes. Maybe our experiences vary from the Indians, so if they see, hear and read something from Indian writers then they can relate to it better.

One of the best ways to promote a destination is via cinema. Are you encouraging Indian movies to be shot on location in Turkey?

From the beginning we have been encouraging films to be shot in Turkey as we know Bollywood is the largest film producing industry in the world. Bollywood movies have an audience spread across the world. Not only Indians but many other foreign nationals also take keen interest in watching Bollywood films. We know the importance of Bollywood. We are very eager to support Indian film makers to come and shoot in Turkey. We are also looking forward to having an Indian celebrity as our brand ambassador that should follow in a span of time.

What are the special activities to be held in Istanbul as it has been selected to be a European Capital of Culture for 2010?


Istanbul is the gateway city of Turkey and one of the most famous destinations. It has also been declared to be a European Capital of Culture for 2010 by the European Union. Throughout the year there will be many festivals and art exhibitions. For example, the Tulip is the symbol of Istanbul and the Minister of Istanbul has decided to decorate Istanbul with tulips. It is the only city in the entire world that is based in two continents, Asia and Europe. Napoleon once said “That if ever the World has to have one single Capital then it has to be Istanbul.” It is also called the melting pot of 3 continents.

How many visitors are travelling to Turkey each year from India?

In 2009, we did not reach the expected number of Indian visitors because of the economic crisis. We received approximately 55000 visitors from India last year.  In 2007, it was 45000. That means an increase of 10000 people in 2 years. These numbers are good but not enough. Big numbers are expected in 2010 and we are promoting Turkey exclusively and aggressively to the Indian market and tapping the great potential of Indian travellers. We see everything settled for the travel industry between India and Turkey this year.

Overall, how many tourists visit Turkey from all over the world?

Turkey receives more than 27 million visitors from across the globe every year. There are nearly 5 million people traveling from Germany followed by Russia with nearly 3 million. Then we have a large number of people traveling from England, Netherland and France.  The entire European market is very important for us.


Now that there are direct and daily flights to Turkey from Delhi and Mumbai and with the new Consulate General opened in Mumbai, do you see forthcoming remarkable growth?

We are definitely going to see a remarkable growth this year. All participants in travel expos and travel fairs have given us very positive feedback as they are expecting a lot more people to visit Turkey this year. All those who have participated in these events are very hopeful and I look forward to a successful year ahead for the Turkish tour operators, our Indian partners and us at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. We are expecting the number of Indian visitors to reach 100000. All I can say is that Turkey is ready.

For a first time traveller, what is the recommended minimum number of days to get a good glimpse of Turkey?

We are promoting Turkey as a traditional, historical, and cultural destination which also emphasizes adventure, sport activities, hospitality, shopping opportunities, golf, leisure and family activities and honeymoon options.

To even begin experiencing Turkey in its fullest, you would require a minimum of a month. Unfortunately, that is not possible for every traveller.

Istanbul is the gateway city and no trip can be started without a visit to Istanbul. We recommend Indian travellers a minimum of 3 days in Istanbul and then they can combine the Western part of Turkey. We strongly recommend exploring beyond Istanbul beginning with Cappadocia and the Aegean coast and the Mediterranean Coast. We have noticed however that Indian travellers are not as attracted to seaside holidays as Europeans. That trend is slowly changing and Turkey’s coasts are certainly worth a visit. Thus Istanbul and Cappadocia would be a good combination or Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya or Istanbul, Aegean Coast and Antalya. A minimum of 10 days is a must so that you can see the major attractions in the Western part of Turkey.

After having spent two years in India, what is your opinion of India as a tourism destination?

India is a fantastic and vibrant country. Before coming here, it was my dream to visit India as a tourist. Fortunately, now I am appointed as its Culture and Tourism Counsellor for Turkey.

Since the beginning I have been trying to explore as much of India as possible.  So far, we have been able to visit Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur, Bangalore, Chennai and of course Agra which is the Mecca for tourists, and needless to say Mumbai.

As a family, I would like to visit Kerala for its backwaters, Jammu and Kashmir to experience the breathtaking landscapes, South India to visit the temples and national parks, and also go up north to Haridwar and Mussoorie. India has lots of attractions to offer and if time permits we will try to discover more before going back to Turkey.

What is your opinion on Namaste Turkey as a concept to promote Turkish tourism to Indian travellers?

Namaste Turkey (www.namasteturkey.com) is a warm and welcoming concept. It is very informative and useful for the Indian traveller to Turkey. The platform establishes good relations between India and Turkey and I appreciate the efforts of Namaste Turkey in promoting tourism exchange between our two countries.  I wish the team of Namaste Turkey the very best.

Lastly, what is your message to Indian travellers visiting Turkey this year?

I would like to invite all Indians to Turkey. This year is especially significant as Istanbul has been chosen to be a European Capital of Culture. However there is much more to Turkey than Istanbul so I would also recommend visiting places beyond Istanbul such as Kusadasi, Antalya and Cappadocia. I believe that Turkey will never let its guests down.